I think being a yabanci, an expat or an immigrant (call it what you will) is extremely bloody hard. I am not going to whinge and carry on today but rather tell the tale of when The Turk first arrived in Australia all those years ago. Let me turn the table on my usual yabanci whinge-fest and tell you all about how The Turk coped when he was the yabanci arriving on foreign soil, a stranger in a hostile land, so to speak.
Life in Australia was good for me in 2002. Daughter was a damn good baby. I had a job that I loved and I lived in an apartment that was all mine. I was content and having The Turk arrive should have made my life pretty much perfect. Shouldn’t it?
Post 9/11 the Australian visa process was daunting but with perseverance and his sponsorship being guaranteed by an amazingly supportive friend, The Turk arrived in Sydney one sunny morning in December 2002. Not wasting a moment The Turk hit the ground running and by the first week of January 2003 he had procured gainful employment as a storeman and packer. He was good at his job because he wanted this job. He didn’t love the work but he wanted this life in this strange new world to be a success.
My friends and family were welcoming and The Turk soon turned my friends into his friends although, as hard as he tried, he just wasn’t fitting in. I knew it and he knew it. No one spoke Turkish and Turkish people were as scarce as hen’s teeth where we lived (read that as non-existent). No one understood what he was going through or where he was from and perhaps I was not as helpful as I could have been. During those early years Australia was not an easy place for a Muslim and The Turk was racially discriminated against by strangers and even the police on more than one occasion.
The Turk began to drink and gamble. I knew he liked a drink – still does – but the gambling was a problem as we did not have that much money to start with. Was I as supportive as I could have been or help him deal with his obvious addictions? No. I turned on him and badmouthed him to whoever would listen. The bright new world was slowly becoming jaded and life was becoming more difficult.
By 2006 The Turk had had enough. This new home had beaten him and, while Turkey may not have all the bells and whistles that Australia has, he gave me an ultimatum. Return to Turkey with him and forge a new life there. I refused to leave and finally he packed his bags and returned to Turkey without us.
After six months in his homeland The Turk returned a new man. Still gave me a migraine daily but at least he had fresh vigour about his life and what he hoped to achieve in Australia. He got not just one new job but two, landscaping by day and a sous chef by night. He was happy. He was working his ass off, providing for his family and could hold his head up high.
He still had not made any friends however and we really had no family other than my father who had remarried. The Turk brooded a lot and we fought a lot, until finally, after one particularly explosive argument, he broke down and told me the truth. The real truth.
He had never really adjusted to his life in Sydney. To Australia. As much as he loves Australia and he loves his family and friends living in such a foreign environment was just too damn difficult. He had no support. He had no one who understood how he felt and Australia had slowly broken him. Into tiny, little pieces.
Obviously we got past that dark time in our life and we stayed together. Sure he drives me crazy but he is my Turk and I do love him. Sometimes.
The point to my reminiscing is this – moving to a new country has so many hurdles to overcome. There is a drama at every turn. Renting an apartment, finding a job, obtaining your visa. Bloody hell it is hard work. Doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from this is a fact.
When I first arrived here in Mersin it was difficult and there were a lot of tears. Two years later it is still difficult (and there are still tears). So what do I do? Do I give up? Run home?
I can now honestly say I understand why The Turk left back in 2006. I really do. Mersin is no Sydney and life for me back in Australia would be so much easier. I would have my friends. I would return to my fantastic job working with people I adore. Life would be grand. So why don’t I run home? Why is it that I am coping in this chaotic country while The Turk collapsed in the reasonable sanity that is Australia? Simply put I have met a great group of people who I can truly call friends. They understand just how crappy a crappy day can be here in Mersin and will laugh right along with me (or pull me back from the abyss if necessary). This was what The Turk was missing in Australia.
To anyone who is taking the plunge in a foreign land or to those of you who have their partner moving to yours know this one thing. Find a support system that works for you and surround yourself with people who will lift you up when needs be. Of course social media makes finding these like-minded people that much easier (man how I wish there was FB back in 2001). I can thank social media (and this blog) for finding my support network – they are my rock. Yes! You guys truly rock!